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The Environmental Crisis on Native American Lands

by 3 Generations
The Environmental Crisis on Native American Lands
The Environmental Crisis on Native American Lands
The Environmental Crisis on Native American Lands
The Environmental Crisis on Native American Lands
The Environmental Crisis on Native American Lands
The Environmental Crisis on Native American Lands
The Environmental Crisis on Native American Lands
The Environmental Crisis on Native American Lands
The Environmental Crisis on Native American Lands
The Environmental Crisis on Native American Lands
The Environmental Crisis on Native American Lands

In April 3 Generations was honored to be part of Global Giving’s Climate Justice Initiative. This effort, centered around Earth Day,  galvanized our community to focus on environmental justice and we were overwhelmed by the response. This was a massively successful campaign for us and are deeply grateful to our incredible donors and to the team at Global Giving for their leadership.

Our project began with our feature film A Different American Dream, a call to action to raise awareness about the environmental and cultural crisis of big oil threatening Native lands.  This mission remains as vital as ever. Although plans to begin TC Energy’s construction of the long-delayed Keystone XL pipeline were blocked last November by a judge in Montana, the company has now asked the courts to lift the current injunction so that they can immediately begin. TC Energy has indicated they will be looking at a “very ambitious 2020 construction season to make up for the lost time”. President Trump has also been trying to push it through, issuing a new permit for Keystone last month.

TC Energy is in direct violation of Native treaties and the law that requires consent from the Rosebud Sioux Tribe. The “lands, water, and promises made in those treaties were paid for, literally, with the blood of Native ancestors and relatives” and we agree that the construction of this pipeline must be done in accordance with Rosebud Sioux Nation law.

At 3 Generations, we are closely monitoring this situation and continuing to raise awareness on this attack on Native lands and its people. As always, we are grateful to our Native American partners and friends for their guidance and wisdom on how to protect Mother Earth.

Links:

At 3 Generations, we have long believed it important to bring worldwide attention to the degradation of Native American lands due to oil extraction. To that end, we made, and are still distributing the film A Different American Dream. We were distressed to learn that climate change is also having a negative impact on those same stunningly beautiful lands. The Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, home to the Oglala Sioux Nation, has been hit with a weather-induced humanitarian disaster.  As The New York Times recently reported, massive amounts of snow have produced terrible flooding and created a state of emergency in South Dakota. Residents do not have the resources to deal with a crisis of this magnitude, and outside help has also been “conspicuously low”. This flooding has been the worst the reservation has seen in at least a generation.

This environmental disaster is exacerbated by the challenges that already plague Native Americans all over the U.S. Half of Pine Ridge’s residents live in poverty and the unemployment rate is 20 percent. Circumstances that have made the situation in Pine Ridge a perfect “collision of nature, poverty, and inadequate infrastructure”.

Unfortunately, these are not coincidental nor surprising given our country’s treatment of Native Americans. Evidence shows that climate change is taking the largest toll on poor and vulnerable people. And much of the harm is not by accident, but because of the failure of governments to close the development gaps that leave Native Americans, at risk. Governments have the power to redress these inequalities and build climate change resilience. Until that happens it is incumbent upon us to bring attention to these crises.


Ultimately it is the youth on reservations will be most adversely impacted by climate change.  Thus, at 3 Generations, we are making a commitment to create and support programs that focus on empowering Native American youth. These include helping the next generation of Native filmmakers and activists find their own voice to fight for change. Watch this space for upcoming details about these programs. In the meantime, our films A Different American Dream and Native Silence are available for educational and community screenings.

Filming in Fort Berthold
Filming in Fort Berthold

A shocking piece of investigative journalism in the New York Times by Pulitzer Prize-winning Eric Lipton confirms and amplifies what we’ve been raising awareness about for the last 4 years. The news from the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation is ominous. The trade off between short term economic gains from fracking and its long term environmental damage disproportionately harms the residents of the reservation. Of course, this story from Fort Berthold is only one example of the danger of relaxing of environmental protections.

“The venting of unburned methane fouls the air with chemicals that are not only in some cases carcinogenic but over the next 100 years will be 30 times as potent a cause of global warming as carbon dioxide. At the same time, the improper burning of methane can create pollutants that cause a variety of respiratory problems.” — Eric Lipton

Of course, this comes as no surprise to us. Key members of the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara nations, the protagonists of our 2016 feature documentary, A Different American Dream, knew that this crisis was coming. This is the message of our film.  As if it were not bad enough when we filmed in 2015, the situation is even worse as 2018. As we write this report, the E.P.A. is proposing to further loosen regulations on pollution and fossil fuels at power plants—that is, if the E.P.A. survives the government shutdown and their current lack of funding.

We’ve put up A Different American Dream on Vimeo On Demand, as we believe this warning becomes more important every day. We believe that legislation must be strengthened and enforced, because lives are at stake. Not just at Fort Berthold, but across the globe.

For those who haven’t seen the film, give it a watch here:

https://vimeo.com/ondemand/adad

At 3 Generations, we have always aimed to bring world-wide attention to the environmental and cultural crisis of the degradation of Native American lands through our feature film: A Different American Dream, a series of videos and a robust engagement campaign focused on supporting grassroots programs.

As many know, in the Dakotas, fracking and pipelines have decimated once pristine landscapes, causing toxic damage, destroying ancestral burial grounds and now threatening drinking water. The company behind the pipeline project was able to purchased land in September 2016. However, this land had legally been reserved for the Lakota under the 1851 and 1868 Fort Laramie treaties.

In 2016, hundreds of federal, state, local, and private police advanced on the protests camps along Highway 1806 to evict the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and their allies. Wearing body armor, carrying batons and assault rifles and they were supported by military humvees, snipers, armored personnel carriers, and a surveillance helicopter. Recently a policeman reported that he gave “300+ people hypothermia by blasting them with water cannons, nearly blew off a woman’s arm with a concussion grenade, blinded a woman with a tear gas canister, and shot a medic in the head with a rubber bullet”, while “a pipeline company paid him to do it”. This, and other assaults, were done to Native Americans protesting peacefully about oil companies stealing their land and harming the environment in order to build a pipeline.

We were distressed to learn that on May 30, Michael “Little Feather” Giron was sentenced to thirty-six months in federal prison, becoming the first person to face serious prison time for his role in the struggle against the Dakota Access Pipeline. Giron was one of thousands who gathered in camps on and near the Standing Rock Reservation in 2016 and 2017 to oppose the pipeline.

Our executive director and founder, Jane Wells, visited Standing Rock 3 times between 2014 and 2017 to record testimony and bear witness to the protests against the pipeline on behalf of 3 Generations. In addition she made multiple trips to North Dakota to film A Different American Dream. These visits only reinforced our respect for the beauty of this landscape and our determination to support Native Americans in their efforts to honor their ancestral lands and mother earth herself.

As Americans, freedom of speech is one of our most, if not the most, cherished and important rights enshrined to us in the First Amendment of the Constitution. If we, as Americans, cannot protest without fear of violence and lawful retribution, what else in the Constitution can be ignored? With these vile environmental abuses only increasing, 3 Generations remains as committed as ever to stand with the tribes in the Dakotas to fight for their land and culture. We are in the process of making our next moves to help Native youth in their struggle to preserve their lands and their patrimony.

Jane, our founder, and Tokata Iron Eyes
Jane, our founder, and Tokata Iron Eyes

This week at 3G, we were so proud to hear of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s win against the 10-term incumbent representative, Joseph Crowley. After the 2016 election, the new Democratic nominee for Congress was working as a bartender when an activist she knew at Standing Rock told her the camp could use more women. The then-27-year-old Ocasio-Cortez and two friends set up a GoFundMe page and set out on a road trip to South Dakota. Ocasio-Cortez knew the importance of ‘bearing witness’ after seeing the disturbing aftermath of President Trump’s election. She and her friends brought a camera and set out to see a “first-person idea of what was going on”, as she told Mother Jones in 2017. She knew that being neutral or silent only encourages the tormentor and never the tormented. On behalf of the Native population and the country in general, Ocasio-Cortez, and many others like her, instinctively knew they could not stand idly by and fail to protest the horrible injustices taking place around them.

The community of people at Standing Rock, who also shared these sentiments, inspired Ocasio-Cortez and, by doing so, facilitated her historic win this month. She has credited her success to everyone who has helped her along the way. Watching her journey and all she has done, not just for her home of the Bronx but the nation, has reinvigorated our mission here at 3G as well. We must always take sides, as indifference is, as Elie Wiesel said, the “epitome of evil”.

Because of this, we have continued to support and strengthen our relationship with the Indigenous Women’s Media Network, founded in the heart of Standing Rock, which “[brings] updates to the rest of the world about the mass social injustices and human rights violations that were occurring to the Indigenous people and their non-native allies." Given the assault on environmental protections and regulations under the current EPA administration, now more than ever, we look to the courage and vision of water protectors, like the women of the network, to lead the way on protecting Mother Earth.

As such, we love the idea of the Indigenous Film Festival, which explores a diverse range of Indigenous storytelling to strengthen heritage and cultural identity in not only local communities but the global community as well. Watch this space for more news on the film festival which takes place in August! 

 

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Organization Information

3 Generations

Location: New York, NY - USA
Website:
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @3Generations
Project Leader:
Jane Wells
New York, NY United States
$19,957 raised of $50,000 goal
 
117 donations
$30,043 to go
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